The Instrumentality of Metadata Access Regime For Suppressing Political Protests In Australia
I·CONnect (Blog Post), 4 August 2020)
6 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 26, 2020
Australians, just like many other people around the world, are taking to the streets to oppose racial and environmental injustice, despite the COVID-19 risk of mass gatherings. Australian politicians have expressed strong disdain, and even threats, at protesters. Government’s desire to silence critics is not new, however today’s tracking technologies and Australia’s lax federal metadata laws give the government unprecedented tools to take action against protesters. Accessing metadata requires no warrant or reporting and enables government to draw links and amass schemes of connections between people who were organising, attending, intending or speaking at the protests. These tools, coupled with new COVID-19 powers to surveil citizens, have seriously impaired the right to protest anonymously in Australia. In this post we are not disputing the need for restrictions on mass gatherings or social distancing — to the opposite, we think they are crucial to stop the spread of virus. Instead, we are exposing the instrumentality of metadata, including location data, for the government to clamp down on peaceful protests. We propose one small step towards securing the right t protest anonymously during a time when Australians need it most: reforming the laws so that our metadata can only be accessed with a judicial warrant and further protected with detailed public reporting requirements.
Keywords: Protests, climate change, Black Lives Matter, chilling effect, location data, metadata, right to protest, freedom of expression, freedom of association, anonymity, democracy, Australia
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